When the Most Valuable Player award becomes a hot topic of conversation around NBA circles, it often involves two names: Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.
This year a new name is being floated around: Derrick Rose.
The Chicago Bulls' playmaker has been turning heads this season, and will be facing perhaps his biggest competition for the award tonight when he faces James and the Heat, in a possible Eastern Conference Finals preview.
The Bulls, under new coach Tom Thibodeau, are the surprise contenders out of the East. They own a 38-17 record, and are now joined by starter Joakim Noah, who had been sidelined with a thumb injury.
Rose is coming off perhaps his best NBA performance when he scored 42 points last Thursday against the San Antonio Spurs, who own the NBA's best record.
Miami have won 11 of 12 games, including Tuesday's 117-97 blowout over struggling Sacramento. The one loss in that span was at Boston on February 13.
The Heat have the second-best record in the East, trailing the Celtics by a game. However, against the Lakers, Celtics, Spurs, Mavericks, and the Bulls, Miami has just one win in seven games.
The Heat have beaten the Bulls in seven of their last 10 meetings, but the Bulls have won three of the last four matchups at United Center.